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10 Of The Greatest Yamaha Enduro Motorcycles

Looking To Buy A Yamaha Enduro Bike? We Got You Covered!

Yamaha Enduro - 2018 YZ450FX Enduro

If you’re looking to buy a Yamaha enduro bike then you’re going to want one of these ones. Here’s a list of ten of the greatest Yamaha enduro models from the early 70s to the present day. The use of the word “great” is obviously subjective though, because while one rider can derive a lot of pleasure thrashing through the woods on an old Yam straight from the golden age of enduro racing, like the late 60s and early 70s, another might prefer a few more modern comforts often found on a contemporary machine instead. Some purists are against electric starters, while others insist upon them. The world of enduro racers is a fickle one, and many people aren’t even aware of what an enduro bike really is!

Essentially, enduro racing is an off-road cross-country race that involves overcoming obstacles and challenges in the form of difficult terrain. These races follow a strict schedule from checkpoint to checkpoint, and most importantly: they are timed events. It’s the timing issue that most people confuse. And if it’s not the time-element that people find confusing, it’s the type of bike involved.

What Makes An Enduro Bike An Enduro Bike?

Enduro motorcycles are off-road oriented machines but they come in a wide range of flavors and styles. Do they have lights and all that jazz? Some do. Are they road legal? Some are. Two-stroke or four-stroke? Both are fine. It’s more the way in which they are ridden that makes the fundamental difference between a regular dirt-bike and an enduro.

Typically, most enduro bikes are two-stroke machines between 250cc and 450cc. Two-strokes obviously offer more power, come in a lighter package and are great fun to ride. Unfortunately, real enduro bikes are proper race bikes and as such need to be handled with care – they have far more frequent maintenance intervals, need a lot of TLC, and will demand a lot of your time. Four-strokes are heavier and they’re not as powerful, but they don’t need premixing, have a superior engine life, provide a better economy, and are better for the environment.

So which one do you choose? That’s a question for the professionals, and if you don’t know what you need already, then start with something small and cheap. Today, we’re going to look at the greatest Yamaha enduro bikes – some are street legal, some aren’t; some are traditional enduro bikes, some are a little unorthodox; some are good for beginners, while some are better suited to experienced riders. Anyway, if you’re in the market for a Yamaha, then try and find yourself one of these awesome Yamaha enduro bikes.

10 Awesome Yamaha Enduro Bikes You Should Ride!

#10. The 1981 Yamaha XT250

While not a traditional Yamaha enduro machine, this early 80s beast was good enough for Rambo in First Blood and this little Yamaha enduro made a couple of appearances in Knight Rider too – so with that as an introduction, you should already have a rough idea of just how cool a motorcycle this was in its day. Powered by an air-cooled four-stroke 249cc engine that produces a tidy 22 horses at 8600 rpm and blessed with a top speed of 75 mph, this quirky little machine is a capable ride both on and off road. It is old and it certainly is a bit dated, if you can pick one up on the cheap then you’d be a fool not to snap up a bargain. It’s a vintage ride, but one that’s incredibly fun on the trails and will always leave a smile on your face.

#09. The Yamaha TW200

Again, calling the Yamaha TW200 a proper enduro is a stretch of the imagination – but it’s a great ride nonetheless. Let’s call it a enduro themed dual sport instead. If you’re looking for a street legal bike that can get your from A to B on the roads (probably not that much fun on highways though), but can also scramble up a rocky ravine like a mountain goat then the TW200 is worthy of your consideration. First introduced in 1987, the TW200 has proven itself time and time again – in fact, in the model’s inaugural year, Japanese rider Shinji Kazama rode one all the way to the North Pole! The TW200 might not be a textbook enduro bike, but it has repeatedly displayed its quality. Not bad for a little 200cc machine. If you had to choose a model year, obviously the newer that you can afford is generally better…but don’t discount the older models completely!

#08. The 1973 Yamaha RT3

This list is titled “greatest” Yamaha enduro bikes rather than “best” and hopefully that should give you an idea of why the 1973 Yamaha RT3 made the cut. It has a lot of redeeming features, and it’s got more than its fair share of problems but there’s one thing that most old school enduro riders will agree on: it was the last real Yamaha enduro bike of that golden age. Powered by a powerful 352cc air cooled, two-stroke engine. With an overall wet weight around the 280 lbs marker, this beautiful little Yamaha could produce a respectable 33 hp at 6,600 rpm and hit top speeds of around 80 mph! The engine was sound and could take a thrashing, while consumables like the sprockets and chain tended to die a little faster. Aficionados often debate about whether the RT360 was better than the newer DT360 that replaced it a year later…but for many, the differences between the two are too minimal to consider. They both have pretty sketchy steering either way. Undeniably fun rides though.

#07. The 1978 Yamaha DT250

If the RT3 is too old school for you, then the 1978 Yamaha DT250 Enduro should do the trick instead. Ten years after the 250cc DT1 emerged, the DT250 came on the scene and showed us what a real enduro motorcycle could be: something that could win races out on the trails, and also a motorcycle that you could ride around town on – two up, if you felt like you and your passenger were small enough. Armed with a capable single-cylinder 250cc two-stroke engine that produces 17 hp at 6,000 rpm and 15.3 lb-ft of torque at 5,500 rpm, the humble DT250 might not look like much on paper, but since it was such a lightweight and nimble machine, it was a real enduro weapon for those who prefer to tackle dirt trails and dry river beds rather than paved roads. The 1978 model was near, if not at the front of its class. If you can find one for sale today that hasn’t been tampered with too much, go out and buy it. While not as collectable as the RT3, you’re more likely to get your hands on one of these.

#06. The Yamaha DT400 Enduro (’75 – ’79)

If the 360cc RT3 didn’t satisfy you, and the DT250 didn’t meet your requirements then the good old fashioned, well-referenced DT400 Enduro should do the job. We’re talking about a single-cylinder 400cc two-stroke that can push out about 24 horsepower at the rear wheel at around 5,500 rpm, 24 lb-ft of torque at 5,000 rpm, reach speeds in excess of 80 mph, and weigh less than 300 pounds all in. All that with drum brakes too. Yes, this is a motorcycle that could tear up deserts, bushwhack through dense forests, and haul-ass over rocks – no matter the conditions, the DT400 could do it all. But like all good things, the DT400 model came to an abrupt end in 1979. Yamaha could see that the days of the two-stroke were numbered and promptly replaced the DT with the 500cc four-stroke XT and TT models instead. Great as the DT400 was, there may be room for a revival. Back in 2016, Yamaha executive Shun Miyazawa spoke at the unveiling of the XSR900 Now we have the 700, 900 then I think we can definitely do something similar with smaller capacity. It could be [a] DT. After having found SR400, a similar capacity could be interesting.” It won’t be a two-stroke, it won’t be as much fun, but anything that keeps the DT name alive is fine by us. The best Yamaha 400 Enduro? Definitely.

#05. The Yamaha TT600R (’98 – ’02)

Arguably not the greatest of the Yamaha enduro motorcycles, but easily one of the most practical on offer. When it comes to enduro and off-road riding, the easier it is to get to the trails, the more fun you’re going to have. It’s all very well having a top of the line enduro machine, but if you’ve got to trailer it, tow it, and unload before you even get the chance to ride it, it takes the zest out of the experience somewhat. A good compromise is to own something like the Yamaha TT600R: a 595cc four-stroke machine capable of 42 horses and comfortable on and off-road. It’s not excellent at doing either particularly well, but it can handle tough terrain and asphalt with ease. Don’t get any lofty scrambling ideas though because it’s good but not that good, and give the freeway a miss if you can. What makes these late 90s/early 00s models so good was that they were versatile, fun to ride, and offered impressive service intervals. They might be faux Yamaha enduro bikes, but if you need a motorcycle that can do more than one job, this should be your weapon of choice.

#04. The Yamaha WR450F

If you like your enduro bikes new, then you might want to consider the Yamaha WR450F. Inspired by the MXGP winning YZ450F, the WR450F has long been one of Yamaha’s staple machines but was never as good as its nearest competitors. Fortunately, Yamaha have given the WR an overhaul and took the best features of their YZ series and brought them across. This 449cc Yamaha enduro now boasts a cool reverse cylinder head with a front facing air intake – the new air delivery system allows for increased power control and enhanced torque, but that’s not the reason we like the WR450F so much. We like it because it’s accessible (it comes with a kick stand, a real electric start, and awesome headlights), and because it can really tackle the trails hard – giving the likes of KTM a real run for their money. Fast, agile, fun, and incredibly versatile, the WR450F is a great Yamaha enduro motorcycle.

#03. The 1982 Yamaha IT465

If you’re looking for Yamaha enduro motorcycle that was ahead of its time then the 1982 IT465 is something worth talking about. There was a lot going on in the early 80s and for Yamaha to consistently keep raising the bar was an incredible feat. Boasting a rear monoshock at a time when rear monoshocks weren’t normal was one of the many reasons why enduro fans consider the IT465 to be one of the best International Trials motorcycles that Yamaha ever produced. In fact, an early review from Australia’s Dirt Bike magazine suggested that any good rider could unload an IT465 straight out of its packing crate and ride it straight away in the International Six Day Trials enduro event without having to tune it or tamper with it at all. And they really were that good, with snappy throttle response and fierce brakes. As far as Yamaha two-stroke enduro bikes go, this was one of the greatest ever made. Even when Yamaha tried to upgrade it by giving it a 490cc engine, the people objected, considering the increased engine size a poor trade for a sluggish start. Who wants one?

#02. The Yamaha WR250F

Why would we put the smaller version of another bike on the same list? The answer is pretty simple: the 450 is great, but the WR250F is the better enduro bike. It might sound a bit odd, because generally the bigger the engine the better technology comes with the package, and that works for regular road racing – but in the enduro world things are different. Here’s a quote from Yamaha about that exact issue: “Many riders prefer to punt a 450cc machine in the bush, but here’s the news – most of us would be quicker on this new WR250F…” With enduro being about time keeping, being faster is better. Like the 450, the WR250F borrows the same technology found on its YZ250F championship winning counterpart, with a reverse cylinder head, revised air intake, and an unbeatable ride experience. Yamaha’s engineers have played with the engine to deliver more power in the mid to high end, tweaked the frame for superior handling, adjusted the suspension for added stability and wrapped it all in a user-friendly, dirt-smashing package.

#01. The Yamaha YZ450FX

And finally, for our favorite Yamaha enduro motorcycle, we have the Yamaha YZ450FX. Designed and built to be the ultimate off-road machine, Yamaha really went to town on their YZ450FX enduro machine. Again, it comes equipped with the rearward-slanting cylinder that you’ll find in the rest of the WR and YZ range, and it’s thanks to that engine that the YZ450FX boasts such a torquey engine with tons of power that you can control easily without letting it get away from you – it’s specifically tuned for enduro racing, and it succeeds in almost every way. The race bred engine is best reserved for those who know what they’re doing! As for the rest of the bike, the KYB suspension is good but could do with a little tuning, but that’s a personal preference. With strong brakes, a switch-free electric start, an 18 inch rear wheel and XC racing tires as standard, the YZ450FX is race ready. While we mentioned above that 450 could be considered too much, if you know what you’re doing then the 450 is what you need. In fact, you’ll be deceived by its weight, because it doesn’t feel as heavy as it should when you’re riding it. If you want the best Yamaha enduro racer out there, we recommend the YZ450FX. No doubt.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What is an enduro motorcycle?

A: Enduro motorcycles are off-road racing motorcycles designed specifically to take part in enduro races. An enduro race is an cross-country endurance race raced over long distances. Enduro motorcycles have bigger gas tanks than dirt bikes, and other difference that make them better suited to heavy-duty time trial races.

About Joe Appleton

Joe is a motorcycle industry veteran who has not only been paid for his words on the industry but also to throw a leg over a bike on the track. Besides riding, and occasionally crashing motorcycles, he also likes to build up older bikes in his garage in Germany. He says; "I like what I like but that certainly doesn’t make my opinion any more valid than yours…" We like Joe's educated opinion and hope you do too.